Running his thumb over my hand softly, we walk hand in hand back towards the willow tree slower than usual. The sun has just barely reared it's head- in this case- it's ugly head. I wished it would remain night forever.
The fog is thick and everywhere- hovering in between grass blades and trees. In between the endless nature all around us, singing and chirping in the harsh wind. We reach the spot we've met to for only a week.
It took us a week to fall in love with each other. Imagine what a lifetime could do? I look away from our entwined hands, blocking the thought from my head. I can't think like that anymore.
The possibilities are gone. My reality lies just feet away from me and I know it. He knows it too. We stop moving, slowly, looking ahead at the chapel that leads into the castle grounds.
He raises my hand suddenly and I look at him, watching as he presses his lips gently to the surface, closing his eyes tightly. Normally, I'd swoon at the gesture but I'm too busy memorizing his face to think too much into it.
He pulls back and shakes his head. "Well... ye should be getting back. He will wake soon."
I nod, smiling softly. He does so too but it doesn't reach far.
"Make sure- ye tell Ann I'm grateful she went to get you for me."
"Of course... I will."
We're breathing heavy, scared. I run into him, clasping him tightly. He lifts me off the ground, running his hand over my hair with a sigh.
"I love-" I whisper.
"Dinnae say it."
"I have to."
Pulling back, he grasps my face, caressing the line of my jaw. "I cannae bear it. Just look into my eyes and say my name- just kiss me and we're saying all we need to."
So I do it. I kiss him deeply and without reservation. Our hands wander over our wrinkled clothing, our damp skin and into each others hair. I pull back, gasping his name.
His eyes close, emotionally and he nods, it seems to himself. He pulls me closer suddenly, his fingers tangled in my messy mane. "Gillian... Gilly."
So close the evidence of our breaths intertwine, we press our faces together for the last time before he lets go of me, backing up slowly, tears welled in his eyes.
"Go, Gillian. Go now."
I turn, swallowing deeply as the tears drift easily down my cheeks. The walk is long and I force myself to not look back until I reach the chapel, afraid I'll change my mind. When I turn, finding him still watching me, half cloaked in fog and mist, his hair wild and untamed around his sculpted face, I come to terms once more with why I'm willing to let him go. Why his happiness is more important than mine.
It's because I love him.
I lift my hand to my mouth and press my lips to it and then reach out for him, sending him that love. And he receives it. I can't see his face any longer but he repeats my actions, reaching his hand towards me. I smile, tearfully and nod, somehow able to feel what he's sending, blossoming inside of me, shielding my body like a cloak from the future that awaits.
In this moment, I don't regret meeting him. I don't regret our nights by the willow tree. I don't regret giving him my body or telling him I loved him. A man loved me enough to give up everything and I loved him enough to not let him do that.
I know one of us has to be the first to look away, and with one last gaze at his magnificence, I do it. I open the door to the chapel and step inside, leaving him behind.
I blink, tearing my gaze from the window towards the door, where Ann is standing, her eyes wide in confusion.
"What? What are ye doing here still?"
I lick my dry lips, feeling the tears fall down my cheeks. "It's- my wedding day."
She shuts the door, coming closer. I deflate when she sets her warm hand onto my dirty shift. "But Callan?"
"Oh... What happ-"
"Ann, please. I-I just want to get ready. I don't want to speak about him- ever again."
"I just don't understand... He loved ye! He was ready to leave with ye!"
I look at her, silently and without emotion and her face falls. Sniffling, she nods, reaching for my hair. I feel her remove nature from it and pay no mind. I can't answer the questions.
The only way I'll get through this is if I live with him buried deep inside of me, not on my sleeve.
I turn in the seat, staring into the vanity- at my paled completion and dark eyes, exhausted from lack of sleep, feeling nothing. Absolutely nothing. I expected an overwhelming amount of pain to hit me as soon as he was gone, but I feel nothing.
She weeps behind me silently, while I pretend not to notice. I do though, although I can't find it in me to comfort her, to explain. What she's feeling is plain on her face- she feels the loss of love.
Not just mine, but hers. She had such high expectations for it. I almost felt as though it gave her hope to know we loved each other enough to elope, run away from our lives just to be with one another... She feels the loss of that hope right now.
She doesn't see that what we did equaled so much more than just love.
"Ye may kiss your bride, sir."
I look from the old man smiling, to the clans- the many of them associated to Clan Chattan- hundreds of people, to the man before me, Lachlan Macintosh, once a completely different person.
But he's not Symon anymore.
Greer was right.
This is this destiny. He's meant to be here and it seems I'm meant to stand by his side. That's how it looks anyway. He stares down at me, a smile hinted on his lips but unable to show completely.
My mind is far from him and he knows it.
Grabbing my arms tightly, he tilts his head and presses his lips to mine with just enough force to make me tremble. It lasts only a moment and then he pulls back, sighing with relief.
We undergo Scottish marriage traditions, rituals of some sort- I barely pay attention, other than when I have to speak. I resurface when they wrap a cloth around my bleeding wrist and the clapping begins. There are shouts and hollers, grinning faces everywhere I look.
Their laird- their chief- has fulfilled his duty. He's taken a bride.
YOU ARE READING
Two very different worlds. Two very different men. And one woman who has to choose between the life that she knew and the one that lies ahead... ----------------------------------------------------------------- Gillian Clarke finds herself thrust...